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Social Issues:Religion

The Danger of Religion

When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and when students attacked their schools, widespread prayers and quoting of Bible verses were uncontested by the usual watchdog organizations. But now, we are again being constantly "reminded" of the dangers of public religious expression.

For at least a generation, the religious heritage of America has been omitted from the education of its young people. The significance of "In God We Trust" is overlooked and its origin unexplored. If the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence were to be evaluated in any serious sense, the discussion of "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," would center on why it did not say "persons." Certain concepts, such as "the separation of church and state," have been turned on their heads. Because of this, when Christians talk of reclaiming the nation, it sounds like a foreign invasion.

Yet the truth is very different. The "separation" (which is not in the Constitution) was first mentioned in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a churchman, reassuring him that the government would not interfere in the affairs of his church. The term is now taken to mean that not only the church but even religious motivation have no place in government or public policy.

The Founding Fathers would have been flabbergasted at this interpretation. Patrick Henry, wrote the following, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ." Of course, today, he would probably be sued by the ACLU for printing such a thing.

Noah Webster wrote, "All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." He sounds awfully narrow-minded and dangerous, doesn't he?

Robert Winthrop, an early speaker of the House, said, "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled by a power within them or by a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or by the bayonet." Nowadays we prefer to assume that man is basically good, and puzzle over the increasing lawlessness.

George Washington, in his farewell address (which has been stricken from the textbooks for over forty years -- apparently because of the blatant religious content) said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are the indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars." Now, a group can call themselves "People for the American Way" and take as their purpose to actively weed religion and its moral implications from the life of the nation.

For some who take the modern view, it does not matter what our founders said because they are dead (and white), their ideas are old, truth changes and new is improved. Even so, the genuine historical fact is that the old ideas established and preserved a unique way of life for 200 years. The new ideas founded nothing and appear to be destroying what they were given.

It is not part of the foundersí idea that those of different persuasions must be persecuted. The founders would all agree that even though there is truth to seek and error to avoid, those who disagree are to be respected as free human beings. They would not have the trouble we do today in deciding whether to affirm a culture which believes in ritual abuse of children or human sacrifice.

The road back to where we were is probably impossible, both psychologically and politically. The principle of laying down one's life for the welfare of others has been replaced by personal rights as the highest good. The recognition that we will all one day stand before a Righteous Judge (Who cannot be overturned by another court) has been lost. Thus only a miracle, what history has called "a revival," can turn things around. As society disintegrates, a phrase comes to mind on which many would agree, some in truth and some in jest, "Let us pray!"

Ross S. Olson MD
5512 14th Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55417
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